What people did right


Grieving people are a tough crowd…we get upset easily, we seem to hate almost everything people say to us, we see the world so differently than those around us that it sometimes leaves little room for shared experience.

In this blog, I have give many examples of awful things people say and do but what about the good stuff? What about the totally amazing, funny, considerate, dear things that people come up with?

Here I offer examples from my experience, but I invite you to share what wonderful things others did for you (or someone you love).

The first act if kindness I benefitted from was my daughter’s best friend’s parents coming to the house to tend her needs while I dealt with the ambulance/police/funeral people coming into our home – it was all so traumatizing for everyone and I had no emotional or physical capacity to nurture or help her in that storm of events.

The tradition of giving food to grievers was helpful as I really hate cooking in my very best moment, so the food brought by the first person to arrive (one of my Perinatal Hospice moms) was very welcome.

The second person to arrive (also a Perinatal Hospice mom) brought a big box of Benadryl and 4 boxes of Kleenex. She then followed my request to go into Dave’s office (me doing that task which would have given me a breakdown at that very moment) to find important documents we needed.

I could only eat pudding for 4 days and 3 of the moms I had cared for in the past supplied me with pudding. To say that I love these women would be quite an understatement.

Another friend arrived with a CARLOAD of groceries and not just any groceries; WEGMANS groceries with wonderful foods that fed my family for days. She got basic staples and wonderful treats…I was using the butter weeks later and thinking of her and her amazing kindness. (Wegmans is a US grocery chain that is so full of various food and restaurants that if were ever going to be stranded somewhere in the universe, I hope it is in a Wegmans)

Not everything cost money. In our tradition, prayers for the newly deceased and their family are valued over everything. Knowing that there were people out there keeping me, my kids, Dave (I know that praying for recently deceased people is not part of most traditions, but that is a topic for another day) and his extended family in prayer was like an ever present security blanket.

Lawn mowings, yes lawn mowing was a welcome kindness, especially because my husband had done that task right up to his death.

A woman I had never met (but we have many mutual friends) came by with a dinner even though she had to juggle her 6 kids to cook it and drive it across town. Sacrificial kindness.

This is very unusual and never to be expected, but it was kind, helpful and REALLY nice. A childhood friend of my late husband is a very successful man in a successful couple and they bought us the 6 plane tickets we all needed to fly home to bury Dave. They additionally gave us other funds via an account set up by a banker friend. In total, their contribution was over $10,000. We aren’t poor and there was life insurance but I was a single mom with 5 dependents (at the time) and my job only offers me part-time hours, so it was very appreciated.

It doesn’t, however, take $10,000 to be kind…I was struck by the creativity in this: on the day of the funeral, a friend bought my then-16 year old a pile of tabloid magazines (including some teen celebrity ones). We all know that this stuff is mind rotting and that was the point, she needed a DISTRACTION and this one was harmless and really cute.

The image from the Virginia funeral (we had a Montana one too) that will stick in my mind forever is Cathleen and Vicky dumpster diving for my daughters retainers. Someone had thrown them away by accident (they were on a plate that wasn’t supposed to be trashed) and by the time we missed them the trash was in a dumpster. My friends were so sensitive to meeting our needs (whatever they were) that their fancy-lady-selves just dove right in. Wouldn’t that make you feel loved?

Please share the kindest thing done for you in your grief…


  1. In December, our first son Bohden was born at 24 weeks gestational after I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia/HELLP Syndrome. I was hospitalized at Stafford Hospital while Bohden was transported to the NICU at Mary Washington. After 36 hours of fighting like a warrior Baby Bohden went to be with the Lord. I never met my son while we was alive but through Tammy’s Bereavement Program Bohden was transported back to Stafford Hospital where we could say our goodbyes. Lost in our grief and heartache we decided to create a foundation in Bohden’s name to help bereaved families alike called Bohden’s Hands. My orginal due date was April 17, 2013 and I we wanted to honor our son. We decided to create an event called “Balloons for Bohden”. Our family and friends from all over the US took a picture of their Balloon representing Bohden and sent it to heaven. At midnight on April 16th my dear friends Lacey and Emily arrived at my house with 36 balloons- one for each hour Bohden lived- and we let them go the next day. My family has always honored our loved ones by writing notes and sending them to heaven. It was so touching to know how many people were praying and supporting our loss. We turned our trial into a day of honor and we couldn’t have done it without all of our loved ones

    • Im totally loving the “one balloon for each hour he lived” what a lovely creative thing to do !!

  2. SueW

    after our son died, my sweet neighbor (who had gone through the loss of her father a few months earlier), came over and walked us through the funeral-planning process. We were exhausted, numb and had never arranged a funeral before. I still tear up when I think of her quiet helpfulness.

    • Oh Sue….that is so nice. I will never forget how full the Church was for his Mass. We had Dave’s funeral at the same church…what a surreal memory.

  3. There are so many amazing things that people did for us. One of the nicest things I will never forget is my sister (who has 5 kids of her own) came over my house almost every week and cleaned it top to bottom for me. Such an amazing person! She was sneaky and got my key and did it while we were out.

  4. Speaking of sneaking into the house…my small side-by-side fridge was WAY to small to handle the deluge of lasagnas we knew were coming upon our return from Montana and my secondary fringe was broken beyond repair. Some kind generous people arranged for a new one to be delivered while we were away.

  5. Julie

    I always feel badly because it is so easy to think of the harsh things that were said and done through our journey with our daughter. If I added up all of the experiences that we’ve had, though, the incredible love and support from our friends, family and strangers would far outweigh the “zingers” who were thrown in! Very important to remember that!

    There were so many thoughtful things that were done for us, but here are a few things that stand out. I lived with an incredible group of girls while I was in college. They shared in our grief when we learned that our daughter had a condition that was incompatible with life. We carried her to term knowing she would pass away shortly after birth, and they longed to do something. What they did was so very perfect.

    They took up a collection and gave it to one the very crafty scrapbookers in the group. She created the most amazing scrapbook for our daughter. Through my dear friend’s tears and prayers, a beautiful scrapbook of “blank” pages came together where all I had to do was fill it in when she was born. Beautiful pages with sweet sayings, butterflies, and obvious love and care were exactly what I needed. At that point, I could not imagine standing in front of the scrapbooking aisle of a craft store trying to piece a cute baby scrapbook together. We now have a lovely keepsake which houses pictures, footprints, and special mementos. I am forever grateful for it.

    Another dear friend of mine went to the local “paint your own pottery” store and bought a plate and paints. She knew that I had made plates with the handprints of my other children and that I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity with our daughter. She put it all together so all I needed to do was take it to the hospital with me. I treasure that plate with her sweet footprints on it…and thank Tammy for helping me with painting and capturing those sweet feet!

    • I had completely forgotten about the plate…thanks for telling that story too ! I remember you coaching Kristen over the phone how to make impressions after Flash died…it took the whole village to care for them the way we wanted.

  6. Joy Zabroski

    In December we received a phone call from our Son Travis that there were problems and the doctors were going to have to deliver our first grandchild, Bohden at 24 weeks. Amazingly Lindsey’s mom and I, making our flight arrangements within 5 minutes of each other were able to get the last flight out of Denver. Our flight was delayed by hours and as we tried to get out of Denver to be with our son and daughter in VA, the airline tried as best they could to help us. Through all of this, after Bohden went to Heaven, Tammy’s team (Kim) was so kind and caring and I will never forget Kim and Tammy taking care of Bohden, Travis and Lindsey, yet finding time to talk with Linda and I. The books Tammy gave us were awesome although I must admit it was a couple of months before I could read mine, but I have shared it with others and learned through Travis, Lindsey, and Tammy how to help others through my own grief. Thank you all. While my husband and I were away in Virginia, our Daughter, Natalie was left in Colorado to grieve alone, she was only 20 at the time, and Bohden’s loss hit her hard. I am so thankful for Leslie, Matt and Suzie for being here to help Natalie in our place. They actually brought balloons to Natalie’s work on the day of Bohden’s funeral for her to write notes on and send to Bohden while we all attended his service in Virginia. I will be forever grateful to Leslie Matt and Suzie for their love for our families and to Natalie during this most difficult time of our lives.

    • Kim’s part in Bohden’s life was huge and pivotal…she set the tone for how the team responded and alerted me of the needs of his family. Our NICU team is fabulous and I am so proud to support them.

  7. so funny you mention the tabloid magazines, because my best friend did the same thing for me. after i lost my daughter, i just expressed the need for some alone time… away from my toddler and his constant needs. she encouraged me to put him in his room and shut the door to play and tell him it’s time for some quiet time… and then go read something. i told her i could start reading some of my books about losing infants and grieving, to which she replied, “no, i meant people magazine or something like that!!” we had a good laugh, and a few days later, she texted me and told me she had picked up some tabloid magazines for me since i have none in my house. =)

    i’ve experienced so many thoughtful gifs of support and love over the past six months. far more of that than i have of people who did not know what to say or said the wrong thing. and for that, i am so very grateful. great ideas here. my perspective on caring for hurting people has changed so much since going through what i have, so it is so nice to have practical ideas on how to help and serve and minister to others.

    i noticed your question on my blog post, and i gave a short answer there in a comment, but wanted to answer your question more in depth… just wasn’t sure how or where i could… without leaving a very long comment.

    • Im glad that you took the time to visit here and leave a more detailed response…I think they are helpful. You had a trisomy 18 baby just recently, right? I was struck that I read your post the day before the delivery so I kept you in mind all that day and I prayed for your peace.

      Healing is such a process…I remember that people used to tell me “you will have good days and bad days” and I would nearly laugh as I responded “I really hope not!!, I cannot imagine being either good or bad for an entire day !” I fond that intense grief comes in waves…I think God allows us to feel in waves as we really couldn’t be endlessly grieved for hours or days without losing our minds.

  8. that is exactly how i’m finding it too… just as you described in your second paragraph of your reply. yes… i had a trisomy 18 baby. thank you for your prayers. we definitely felt prayed for that day, and had so much peace throughout. the delivery could not have gone better, and we had six lovely hours with her. she was a blessing and a gift. truly. at some point, i will write out her birth story.

    i was curious how you found my blog. i thought you mentioned in a comment that you came via facebook??… following a link on the Gift of Time page? what was the link? i am not on fb anymore {may get back on at some point when everything returns to “normal” for me}. but i am curious what link was on that page for my blog. was it from the author/owner of that fb page? it seems to be a private group, so i can’t see it, and would have to relaunch my account to be able to join the page {which seems like it must be for moms like me}.

  9. I dont think this FB page is private…it has 2 forms “A Gift of TIme” and “Perinatal Hospice and Palliative Care” and it is read (I perceive) more by professionals who run perinatal hospice programs (like me) than moms. The header mentioning the link was sweet…”Just wanted to share this beautiful blog post by a mom whose sweet baby with Trisomy 18 will be born soon. Isn’t this a gorgeous pregnancy photo?”. At risk of overwhelming you just a bit, the post was “liked” by folks I know who do this work all over (like Japan where they use a video I created about a T18 birth to teach this concept).

    I had T18 delivery on Monday..sweet family, sweet baby. It is such an honor to be allowed into someones life to assist them. I have worked at my hospital long enough now that I know just what annoyances are headed towards people and how to thwart them. As the parents were headed to the hospital, I called the people who would roll her from Emergency to L&D and explained that “normal predelivery chit chat” would not serve this mom well and how to interact with them in way they would see as supportive. I hand picked her nurses, her room…well in this case I hand picked her surgeon too but that was unusual.

    What was really cool was when I went into the NICU at the end of nightshift to explain the case and the plan, there were a bunch of newer nurses who listened to me with baited breath…they were all so supportive and excited to do anything these parents needed to have the experience they needed…I realized that my 8 years of coaching my staff on this had really seeped deep into the culture of how we function. I could have cried with happiness.

    • that is so awesome… tammy, is it? we had such an amazing {and i don’t use that word often} staff and support at our hospital. we had a wonderful perinatal palliative care coordinator who worked with us for months, a wonderful labor/delivery nurse… so great, i can’t imagine any better. she even followed up by phone about a week after our delivery. our recovery nurse was also so compassionate and kind. and then all the staff from neonatal was so kind to us. it was a great experience. the only place we felt lack of compassion was during doctor visits that led up to the birth… especially from the male doctors. but we’ve read that is common. this is why i have such high respect for nurses. they are the ones doing the really had work, and many so genuinely caring as they do it.

      i don’t mind about the link on the fb page at all. i am happy someone thought to put it there, especially if it can help someone else to see that carrying a tri-18 baby can be a gift and a blessing and know that you can go through it with tremendous support and come out on the other side with gratitude and peace, having had a positive experience. i was just curious how you were led to the post. i knew my friend, who took the maternity photos of me, had put a link to my post on her fb page and it got a lot of traffic from that. but then, one day, my stats showed that someone came to the post via a different fb link… one that, when i clicked on it, led me to the private Gift of Time page. i will have to check the other one out. when i get back on fb, i will probably be “liking” a lot of those fb pages… like the tri-18 page and Gift of Time… and others like that.

      though i don’t know you, thank you for all you do for moms like me… and dads… and the sweet babies. happy new year!

  10. All of these posts are so surreal. I too, lost a granddaughter after only 2 days. She was a trisomy18 baby as well. Watching my son and daughter in law go through such pain was difficult and still is. I grieve for this baby and them every day. I was so blessed to get to hold her and sing to her. I know she felt the love around her. All of you are in my prayers. NICU nurses are special! I thank God every day for the staff at Sentara in Norfolk, Va.

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